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Thread: Zelenka's works: Four short questions

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    Default Zelenka's works: Four short questions

    Did Zelenka originally intend to have six "Missae Ultimae"? If so, have the others been lost? I see the first, second, and sixth of them (Missa Dei Patris, Dei Filii, and Omnium Sanctorum respectively) in the catalogue of his works, but not the third, fourth, or fifth of them.

    Also, why are Zelenka's works so few in comparison to Bach's (the ZWV numbers go up to about 250, while the BWVs about 1100)? Is it because Bach's have been researched for multiple centuries and Zelenka's only for a few decades? Or is it because so many more of Zelenka's versus Bach's works have been lost?

    Thirdly, did Zelenka write anything for the keyboard? I remember reading somewhere that he composed something comparable to the Well-Tempered Clavier. If so, where has it gone?

    Finally, how many of Zelenka's compositions have yet to be found? In other words, is it estimated that there is a large or small portion of his works still undiscovered?

    Sorry for posing so many questions. I'm just really interested in Zelenka, and don't have enough money at the moment to buy Stockigt's book. Thanks for taking the time to look at them.

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    Quote Originally Posted by vaniificat
    Did Zelenka originally intend to have six "Missae Ultimae"? If so, have the others been lost? I see the first, second, and sixth of them (Missa Dei Patris, Dei Filii, and Omnium Sanctorum respectively) in the catalogue of his works, but not the third, fourth, or fifth of them.
    The other three probably didn't get written, as there does not appear to be any specific mention of them anywhere. On top of that, Missa Dei Filii is not a full-blown catholic mass. Zelenka may have intended to expand it, but then again he may not have wanted to for some reason! We do know from the title page of the autograph score that Missa Omnium Sanctorum was intended to be "the sixth and last" mass. In all likelihood it was Zelenka's health that prevented him from completing all six masses, but his specific notion of how the cycle should end may have been especially important to him. In this respect, we (as Zelenka fans) should perhaps pay special attention to this mass.


    Also, why are Zelenka's works so few in comparison to Bach's (the ZWV numbers go up to about 250, while the BWVs about 1100)? Is it because Bach's have been researched for multiple centuries and Zelenka's only for a few decades? Or is it because so many more of Zelenka's versus Bach's works have been lost?
    The quality versus quantity argument doesn't really work here (perhaps some people would disagree) but everything that Zelenka wrote from the age of 25 or so was of high quality (before that we don't know). Perhaps Bach had more time to himself, or more energy, or slept less, or was more ambitious - who knows? Bach also seems to have had more of a publishing instinct, which was not an option in Zelenka's case.

    Most of Zelenka's works have not been lost (the autograph scores have survived in Dresden either undamaged or water damaged) but the accompanying parts are often missing. Some of these may have found their way to far-off places such as Ukraine, and may eventually (or even soon) turn up.


    Thirdly, did Zelenka write anything for the keyboard? I remember reading somewhere that he composed something comparable to the Well-Tempered Clavier. If so, where has it gone?
    There is no evidence of Zelenka writing for the keyboard. This has been discussed earlier in the forum. You may be mixing him up with Johann Caspar Ferdinand Fischer, who was probably the one you are thinking of, i.e. his early keyboard stuff may have inspired Bach in the direction you mention.


    Finally, how many of Zelenka's compositions have yet to be found? In other words, is it estimated that there is a large or small portion of his works still undiscovered?
    Lucky for us, Zelenka kept an inventory of his own works and those of others (that were available to him and his colleagues in Dresden), and there is fairly good correspondence between that and what has already been uncovered in Dresden and elsewhere. There are exceptions and controversies, of course. The Requiem ZWV 45 is a case in point. It neither exists in the inventory nor exists in autograph form. (See elsewhere on the forum for discussions on ZWV 45).

    So, to answer your question, a high proportion of Zelenka's works have been discovered. They are not all intact, though, and controversies remain. It's difficult to say, but in terms of ZWV no.s, perhaps 50 per cent of his works have been recorded at least once.
    Last edited by Alistair; 12-01-2009 at 10:31 AM.

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    Thank you so much for answering so quickly, and so thoroughly! I'll have to look around more on the forum about the keyboard works - thanks for referring me. I actually didn't know about Fischer; I found the information about Zelenka's keyboard compositions on a website somewhere. Obviously it was unreliable.
    Last edited by root_admin; 13-01-2009 at 08:57 AM.

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    Default Zelenka's Works: Four short questions

    I hope that Vaniificat will read my notes about Zelenka's keyboard music dated 28/10/07. The thread was started at that time but eventually drew a blank.

    Clearly we have nothing at present and we do not know what he wrote in the first 30 years of his life apart from perhaps two works. I remain optimistic although I have no grounds for optimism!

    What can be said in general is that there remains an enormous amount of evidence waiting in libraries around the world about obscure composers and investigations about Zelenka have not been a priority for music scholars until comparatively recently. Krafft, Homilius, Graupner, GA Ristori and Fischer (with his preludes and fugues) are examples of obscure composers whose fine qualities will repay research.

    For example, it is said of Graupner (who I am listening to this month) that he copied an enormous amount of other composers' music without noting their names. As he was a contemporary (1683 - 1760), expert exploration of his library might bear fruit - even one or two pieces would be good.

    Andrew Hinds
    Last edited by Andrew Hinds; 13-01-2009 at 08:40 PM.

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    Default "Lost" works and forgotten composers

    Thinking about the possibility of Zelenka's keyboard works existing makes me wish that musicologists would stop focusing on Bach alone and direct their efforts to more obscure composers, many of whom approached or even equaled him in ability. Honestly, I'm surprised that composers like Graupner, Ristori, and Caldara (who were all on Bach's "list") haven't been researched and recorded more. For instance, I recently listened to a work by Caldara, the Missa Laetare, and it was incredible. It was just so unique, so beautiful, so evocative, and the counterpoint was wonderfully written. It baffles me as to why the recording of it was so exceedingly difficult to find.

    Another such composer is Antonio Lotti, although Bach didn't specifically name him as a composer he esteemed highly. Hours of Google searches only direct me to maybe three recordings of his compositions (not including those of the Crucifixus 8, which still remains his best-known and virtually only-known work, even though, for instance, his Missa Sapientiae is a masterpiece). And when I try to look up a catalog of his works, I only come up with a proprietary website whose list I know is incomplete because I own a recording of a work not mentioned in it. It's just sad. That's not to mention numerous other supposedly "great" composers who have not been so fortunate - for example, Francesco Durante is said to have written 200 masses (which of course is not true, but nevertheless attests to his greatness), and yet I have not yet found a website which so much as mentions his works specifically, let alone offers recordings of them. This is despite Wikipedia's assertion that his works are catalogued.

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    I have (had) a fine recording of a Lotti mass in stile antiquo, it was very well-written. And I agree on Durante, way too little music is available of this highly interesting composer, as is the case with many of the lesser known figures of the era. Seems as if there has been such a great focus on even the most inconspicuous, flimsy-sounding, pre-classical composer (rococco, Empfindsamkeit, It. opera, Mannheim etc), just because some stylistical trait in the music is pointing towards the Wienna classics, that many composers of the high baroque (and true to that idiom) has been firmly neglected.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Morlam
    Seems as if there has been such a great focus on even the most inconspicuous, flimsy-sounding, pre-classical composer (rococco, Empfindsamkeit, It. opera, Mannheim etc), just because some stylistical trait in the music is pointing towards the Wienna classics...
    I nearly laughed out loud reading that. It's just so true. For some reason recordings of the best pieces by the best composers have been neglected in favor of exactly the kind of things (dare I call them compositions?) you described. The Rococo to me is the antithesis of everything I find beautiful. In music that means an overabundance of trills (most of which in the most unnecessary places), very boring melodic lines which drag on in an attempt to express emotion through sub-grave tempi, little or no counterpoint, repetitive and predictable harmonic progressions, thin textures...the list goes on and on just like the awful music. That kind of stuff has given the "high baroque" a bad name. I don't understand why musicologists even bothered to dig it up. Why waste time and effort on such pieces when they could have been resurrecting great works like Zelenka's? Just think: by now every piece of his ever written might have already been recorded multiple times! It pains me to think of it.

    By the way, would the Lotti mass you were describing happen to be "Missa Del Sesto Tuono"? If so, I have it too.
    Last edited by vaniificat; 14-01-2009 at 05:20 AM.

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    Georg Joseph Donberger 1709-1768 (a pupil of Caldara) is one late baroque composer to look out for. He wrote 92 masses, 17 requiems, 12 offertories, and 10 Te Deums.

    Don't forget that J.S. Bach also had an eclipse period. Certain individuals worked hard for him to re-emerge, including Mendelssohn - and even Mahler.

    To most people in English-speaking countries baroque music still means Bach, H?ndel, Vivaldi and perhaps Telemann. I must say that in Germany and the Czech Republic, people are much more aware of their baroque cultural roots.

    The situation in Britain and the US is made worse by general music magazines such as Gramophone, which tend to concentrate on music from the 1800s and 1900s. It's not that they don't review new CDs of baroque music, but it's often the same old stuff that appears. Also, many of the small new labels from Europe (those that have really interesting stuff) are glossed over - possibly because there is this old-fashioned notion of distributors.

    Both the UK and the US have an "island" mentality in this respect, which is a pity. After all, there is a huge potential for buying such CDs there, if only people were better informed. Rather than taking a chance on something enticing from www.jpc.de, people tend to follow recommendations from the "experts", and this is all based on what's available within the country. The whole situation is so terribly skewed. So much for globalization!
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    Last edited by paperMoon; 27-01-2011 at 05:12 PM.

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    I couldn't agree more Vaniificat. Pre-classicism and indeed classicism is one uninterrupted excercise in the arithmetics of single, equal figures, ticking away on the narrow, fixed vocabulary of the rococco musicbox. The scales, the little triads and Seufzer's seems quite haemophobic as opposed to the large, emotionally potent and asymmetric archs of the baroque melodic lines ("wonderful arabesques" as Debussy put it), and the Alberti basses and arpeggios sound like a bad excuse for lacking seriousness compared to the omnipresent melodic awareness of baroque counterpoint, and the squarecut feeble rhythmic patterns are so unlike the primal energy in baroque music - every parameter come out the looser in my opinion. Something distinctively staged comes into music with classicism, a degree of alienation and self-consciousness (like in Watteau's famous Pierrot) that hasn't since left.

    And how the Rousseaunian and artfully cultivated "Volkston" of classisism is often presented as a break from the lofty unworldliness of music written for the private glorification of the prince, while the truth is folk music somehow permeates allmost every work by f.i. Bach, Telemann, Zelenka and Lully, as a thoroughly natural constant. The folk elements in Bach's Peasant Cantata don't sound like rustic pastiche, but as if grown from the same mold as all his other music, and a far cry from the arcadian nostalgia of the rococco.

    And I agree Paper Moon, about the attitude of many listeners towards baroque music in general. It is often approached like a stale, museum article only to be brushed off at Christmas and Easter. Even quite a few professional musicians feel this way. The real museums though are the powerful concert- and broadcating-institutions that keeps presenting the same concert works and operas by the same handful of composers from Mozart to Mahler over and over and over again. Compared to the breath of fresh air brought about by the performance revolution of baroque- and older music going on since the 70'ties, literally nothing has changed in a 100 years of interpreting say Beethoven, and I'll bet a million it'll stay that way for the next 100 ( ).
    Last edited by Morlam; 14-01-2009 at 10:31 PM.

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    Default Re: Zelenka's works: Four short questions

    Quote Originally Posted by Alistair View Post
    On top of that, Missa Dei Filii is not a full-blown catholic mass. Zelenka may have intended to expand it, but then again he may not have wanted to for some reason!
    This has always interested me. I have come to conclude that, to be a completely devout Catholic did not mean that he did not have to take the most obvious Catholic way in his writing. To be a strongly religious Catholic did not mean that one could not take an interest in a more Protestant method. I think that he appreciated the Missa Brevis style, and wished to dedicate one mass to that, as a small nod to it perhaps? No evidence for this whatsoever, but I am going purely by whim.
    Just as Bach in the end wrote in a very Catholic manner for his mass in B minor. (not that bringing Bach's example into this makes this debate any better)
    Plus, of course it is not 100% whether Missa Dei Filii -is- a brevis.

    It is in any case a fascinating thing to dwell upon.
    Seb.

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